Acrylic Nails

Light-Cured Liquid and Powder Systems Offer Flexibility of Gels, Strength of Acrylics

Acrylic systems that cure with UV light eliminate odor in the salon and have the added benefit of ending lifting.

According to nail technicians who use them, light-cured liquid and powder systems answer their need for a completely odor-free product that has superior adhesion, strength, flexibility, and color stability. Manufacturers of the systems promote them as having “the strength of an acrylic and the flexibility of a gel.

“The systems also solve another potential problem, says one nail technician. “Adhesion is the most important advantage this system gives,” says Michelle Barna, owner of the Nail Clinic in Avon, Ohio. “With system, there is no lifting whatsoever. I would say that 85%-90% of my clients switched over to the new system because of this feature.” The application of light-cured acrylic liquid and powder is, according to the systems’ manufacturers, somewhat like the odorless and somewhat like light-cured gels. The product will not set until you cure the nails under a UV light source. He means that you can work the product-until you are completely satisfied with the nail shape.

Says Barna, “How much time do you have with regular acrylic products-a minute and a half? Novice technicians can work with this product as long as they need to get it to look right. When I was learning to use it, I could play around with the consistency and see what I could do using the forms.” Barna says the transition to using the new system was easy. “It took me a few weeks to learn how to use it. But I was being very methodical.  It now take the same amount of time to do a set of nails as before-50-55 minutes.”

Light-cured liquid and powder systems resemble odorless systems in that when the product hardens under the UV light, unpolymerized residue rises to the top and leaves a moist, tacky seal on the surface of the nail. “That’s the excess liquid,” says Barna. “It is necessary to slough it off, but it’s not sticky. It’s dust-like but heavy enough to not go into the air. That reduces your airborne dust.”

Lin Halpern, director of clinical research and development for NSI, suggests two ways to remove the tacky layer. “You can roll it off with a 100-grit file, or you can clean it off with an acetone-soaked nail wipe.” This won’t affect the finished nail, says Halpern. If you don’t wipe it off completely you will have some product left that could get on the skin and cause a reaction. Says Halpern, “It’s not good enough to wipe it off with alcohol; you need to use a good solvent such as pure acetone.” Halpern teaches cleaning the top of the nail, the underside of the free edge, and the skin around the nail. How you work the product with your brush also differs from a traditional system. Says Barna, “The product ‘rolls’ off your brush. Once the product is placed on the nail, it will follow your brush, rather than you having to stroke it. You direct the product with your brush rather than stroking it, much like you work a gel.”

The finished nails are easily filed. “They’re not dense like gel nails. And if you file them with a coarse file, there’s no “seal” that you have a danger of breaking. But I don’t recommend filing with a coarse file because then you double your work. You’d have to file with a fine file afterwards anyway. You should be able to just buff with 80% of your nail sets,” says Barna.

Light-cured liquid and powder systems are cured under the same type of UV light used for curing gels. You just have to make sure that the wavelength and strength of your lamp are compatible with those required by the photoinitiator in your product. When a hand is placed in the UV light, the wavelength of the light activates the photoinitiator in the product to begin polymerization. Once the product is completely cured, the finished nail has reached its maximum strength and durability. The complete bonding obtainable from the UV light promotes the adhesion of the product to the natural nail. Halpern explains that UV lights used to cure top coats don’t have the same strength and wavelength as those used to cure gels, and therefore won’t completely cure the light-cured acrylic liquid and powder. She says, “The product is like a clock and the light is like a key; you need the right key to open the lock.”


Step 1. Sanitize your client’s hands and nails. Apply primer with a primer pen application or a primer brush. Let the primer dry to a chalky white; if it does not dry to a chalky white, re-prime.

Step 2. Apply nail forms to all 10 nails. The forms should fit under the free edge and follow the contour of the nails. Do not apply the form too tightly under the free edge because this will create a gap between the form and the free edge.

Step 3. Pour the liquid and your powder into two separate dappen dishes. (Star says its liquid can be used with any of its Flash Silica Sculpting powders. NSI’s light-cured liquid and powder must be used together to work properly. Halpern explains that NSI’s light-cured powder has a specific particle size to properly absorb the light-cured liquid so that there is complete polymerization.) Dip your brush in the liquid and wipe on a paper towel.

Note: The manufacturer’s recommend ratio for liquid-to-powder is very important to remember when working with this system. With Star’s Ultimate Lyte the ratio is 2 parts liquid to 1 part powder; NSI’s is 1 part liquid to 3 parts powder-very dry.

Step 4. Redip the brush in the liquid and gently wipe your brush. The more you wipe it, the less liquid the brush will hold and the less powder it will pick up. The size of the ball will depend on the area of the nail and how lightly you pull the brush across the powder. In zone sculpting, there are four areas to the nail that you will sculpt on.

Step 5. Zone 1, the free edge, will be the driest zone, so you will need to remove excess monomer by wiping the brush against your dappen dish. Apply a dry-consistency ball of powder to the free edge.

The dry consistency will make it easier to sculpt the free edge; make sure the product is dry enough to hold and shape, but not so dry that it will fall off the form. With the belly of the brush, pat, form, and work the powder into the desired shape. Make sure the formed nail does not go past the width of the natural nail

Step 6. Wipe the brush on a paper towel before redipping in the liquid to prevent any contamination of the liquid.

Step 7. Zone 2, behind Zone 1: Apply a smaller, medium/dry-consistency ball of product behind Zone 1. Work, form, and shape the ball from side-to-side, covering the natural nail, then stroke it out.

Step 8. Zone 3: This ball should be wet to ensure maximum retention and flexibility. Redip the brush in the liquid and pick up another small, very wet-consistency ball and apply it near the cuticle area (not too close-placing product too close to the cuticle area may cause lifting). Then draw the excess toward the free edge; stroke the remaining product from the cuticle area toward the free edge to blend.

Step 9. Zone 4: Redip the brush in the liquid and pick up another small, wet-consistency ball and apply it to the stress area. Brush from the cuticle area to the free edge. This will give additional flexibility to the stress area.

Curve for two minutes under the UV light. Make sure your client’s knuckles are flat so that the nails are cured properly at all angles. Remove the forms and place the hands palms up under the light to cure the underneath of the nails for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Step 10. After curing for two minutes, a slightly moist seal will appear on the nail. This seal reduces airborne dust. Simply slough it off:

  1. Using a 180-grit file, begin by sloughing the entire nail to remove the seal.
  2. Shape and define the free edge the same file.
  3. Perfect the cuticle area.
  4. Using a buffing block, remove scratches and finish the nail.
  5. Use a tri-sided buffer to bring the nail to a high-gloss shine.

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